For the second time in this year's Seattle International Film Festival, my previously held, but not carefully considered beliefs have been challenged by a movie. This time the movie, entitled, "Angry Inuk," is about seal hunting. The film is made by an Inuit woman as part of their campaign to lift the ban on seal products in the EU and elsewhere.
According to this eye-opening documentary, groups like Greenpeace and the Humane Society have been campaigning to protect seals long after their victory to protect the little white-fur harp seal babies in the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Those baby white seals are the poster pets and big money makers for the various animal rights groups, who keep "saving" those white pups, even though they are already saved.
The result is crushing to the Inuit, who are indigenous to the Arctic regions of the world. They have always hunted ringed seals. Almost all "commercial" ringed seal hunting is small scale, done by the only people who really live in those remote frozen regions, the Inuit. They've always hunted seals. They eat the meat, and either sell the hides, or use them to make clothes or other items. By banning all products of "commercial' sealing, the EU, in particular, has closed the door on the Inuit people selling the only thing the Inuit have to sell; seal hides. How can the Inuit buy flour or manufactured goods like pots or pans unless they make a little money somehow.
These indigenous people sit atop mineral and oil-rich areas, but they'd rather continue to hunt rather than sacrifice their territories to extractive industries. Seals, they point out, are not endangered.
Part of the problem is that governmental bodies and save-the-animal organizations apparently decided what was best for the Inuit People without ever asking the Inuit. And according to this film, using the already-saved image of the little white seal pups draws millions of dollars in donations to groups like Greenpeace, Sea Shepard, and The Humane Society. Seals may be all the indigenous people of the frozen north have to sell, but saving the little white seal babies, which is a different issue, proved to be so profitable that these groups have continued "saving" all the other seals, using the image of the little white ones. The impact on indigenous communities was inconvenient, and didn't seem to matter. According to the film, Greenpeace finally apologized to the Inuits. But the EU ban on seal products continues.
I've stomped my foot right along with the "save the baby seal" folks. It turns out those seals have been saved for many years. The Inuit, who hunt for different kinds of seals, are not. At one point in the film, an Inuit delegation to an important international meeting present their case to the voting members. An animal rights group showed up to pass out adorable little white fluffy stuffed seal toys to each official as they filed into the chambers, even though the topic of conversation was entirely different types of seals and methods of hunting them. By an overwhelming majority, the Inuit lost the vote. How can they, the poorest communities in Canada, compete with the well-funded animal groups? Before I saw this movie, I would have automatically been on the side of the animal lovers.
I don't know how much crow I'm going to have to eat on this one; a lot, I'm guessing, but I LOVE having my preconceptions challenged, and I'm willing to admit being wrong. If you're willing to be exposed to a persuasive perspective you have probably not appreciated before, then be sure to catch "Angry Inuk" at SIFF. It screens twice, Sunday 5/28/17 and Monday 5/29. Go to SIFF.net for more info.